by Julia Mucha
The ad goes up on Craigslist, under Casual Encounters. Female, 19, with amputated hand—seeking anyone interested. The picture uploaded is flattering: the wrist nipped and freckled. My face is missing, but you can see cropped shirt rising up to show a sliver of stomach. When my inbox dings, I sit straighter in front of my computer. Then I think—Alright, don’t be stupid. They can’t see you. My right hand clicks the mouse.
The message is from a 37-year-old man named Rick. A man, not a boy, who wants to make me dinner tonight. Just me. No one has ever asked me to hang out like this. He promises mint-garnished lamb chop. Plus, wink wink, a bottle of pinot. It’s a good year, Rick says. From a vineyard in California. My tongue froths. I touch one finger to my tastebuds, amazed at the response a human body has to promise.
Then Rick asks if I have a name for it—my lack of left hand. My right thumb goes to the spot, the smoothed nub. I tell him how soft and new the skin is, like it’s been polished. It’s the part of my body I touch most often, because no one else does. Rick promises a pet name. Then he asks if he can put it in his mouth. When I think of this, of my nub disappearing into the moist pink cave of a stranger’s mouth, my legs clench.
Okay, I type back. Sure. We can try that.
The clock on the wall says 1 PM. Rick gives me his address which is on the outskirts of town and asks me to come over at dusk. Google Maps shows me a picture of his apartment complex, and my breath quickens. I zoom in. It is a geriatric unit with balding grass, and the faded number “Q” over the entrance. Bags of trash on Rick’s deck.
Alright, not the best. But our night is playing out in my head and I don’t want to interrupt it. What I’m seeing is a dry pink sunset, my hand curled around a stemmed glass. Rick will ask what happened while stroking my left wrist. I will say, Shark attack in Belize. I will say, My veins died and hurt my fingers. I will say, Hand crushed under Mom’s SUV.
I will not tell him I was born like this.
Then Rick says, Got to go. Can’t wait! and I send a heart. Before I log-off, I look up bus schedules. The map shows me here, where I start, and the squiggling route that will take me to being wanted. It includes two bus change-overs and extra fare. I spin around in my computer chair, pushing off the desk with my right hand. My other limb against my chest.
Julia Mucha lives in Portland, Oregon. She works in a neighborhood bar and is a prose student in the certificate program at the Independent Publishing Resource Center.